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The war on poverty was not a
failure by the U.S. government, but, at the same time, it was far from a total
success. When President Johnson began the war on poverty, in 1964, the national
poverty rate in the U.S. was around 19%. Through this new initiative the Johnson
administration invested in creating jobs, training Americans for new jobs, and distributing
aid to needy Americans to give them a “hand up” out of poverty.

            If we were
to go by President Johnson’s initial goal of to “not only relieve the symptom
of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, prevent it”, the war did not
complete its objective. Because based on U.S. Census data, after the rapid
decline from 19% in 1964 to 11.1% in 1963, the national poverty rate has remained
between 11% to 15% with the 2015 poverty rate at 13.5%. Then, if we were to go
by Johnson’s other intention of giving Americans a “hand up” out of poverty and
not a hand out, this objective was not completed either. Because if you were to
look at the same U.S. Census data in a different view, 32.2% of low-income
Americans lacked self-sufficiency in 1959, then in 1964 when the war on poverty
began and anti-poverty programs were enacted, the rate plummeted to 17.3%, but
then remained steady between 11% and 15% from 1970 to present day.

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            The war on
poverty did not end poverty completely or create less reliance on the
government like planned, but it did have some successes. For example, many
programs enacted during the war on poverty are still in use and improving the
lives of countless Americans. Take SNAP for example, in 2009 the USDA surveyed low-income
Americans and found that lower-income Americans are far from under nourished
and are just as nourished as middle-class Americans are. Then look at Social
Security, over 65.1 million Americans in 2015 received benefits from the Social
Security Administration, which 61% reported was half of their income for the
year. So, even though poverty was not eradicated during the war on poverty,
many of the anti-poverty programs created were successes in improving the lives
of impoverished Americans.

            I believe
in the structural-functionalist perspective and since politics are for
governing people and not for the consumption and distribution of goods like the
economy is; if I were in charge of the war on poverty, I would shrink the
amount of money the government is paying into the welfare programs and instead
divert those funds into economic investment to grow the economy. That would in
turn would create more jobs and allow Americans a path out of poverty instead
of a life of dependency that the welfare programs have created.  I would then reform the U.S. tax code, lower
taxes, and expand tax credits for middle and lower-class Americans while
raising taxes for the wealthy and corporations; which would allow Americans to
be able to work their way out of poverty. The war on poverty needs to become a
self-initiated war, with induvial Americans taking charge of their own lives
then the federal government.

 

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